Investigators in Alaska used genealogical genealogies to close the case coldly killing Jessica Baggen, who was raped and murdered after she celebrated her 17th birthday in 1996, authorities said. know Tuesday.
A suspect identified in the case, Steve Branch, 66, died of suicide last week after state police investigators went to his home in Austin, Arkansas, to interview him about Baggen’s murder in the city of Sitka, southwest of Juneau, Major of the Alaska State Police. Dave Hanson told reporters.
After the authorities tried to take a DNA sample, Branch denied involvement in the murder of the teenager and refused to provide it, Hanson said. Thirty minutes after the officers left to take orders, Branch died by suicide, Hanson said.
“Although Branch would never have to face the jury like his peers in this case, we can finally say that Jessica̵7;s case has been resolved,” the Safety Commissioner Public Alaska, Amanda Price said.
Baggen disappeared on May 4, 1996, after she left a birthday party at her sister’s house to walk home, Hanson said.
Her body, found two days later, was buried in the woods, he said.
Nine days later, a man contacted the local police and confessed to sexually assaulting her, but with no physical evidence involved in the crime, and he was later acquitted in a the trial, Hanson said.
In 2018, cold case investigators submitted a suspected DNA sample taken from Baggen’s body to Parabon NanoLabs, which they uploaded to a public genealogy database, he said.
Finally, Branch emerged as a suspect, Hanson said. He lived in Sitka when Baggen was murdered, and he was indicted – and acquitted – for sexually assaulting another local teenager around the time Baggen was killed, Hanson said. He moved to Arkansas in 2010.
After obtaining a DNA sample from a relative of Branch, investigators determined that he most likely matched the suspect’s DNA.
After Branch’s death on August 3, scientists matched the DNA obtained from his body during an autopsy against the suspect’s, Price said.